Today, a new 2014 law went into effect that prohibits private employers from inquiring into an applicant’s criminal history on an initial application. The intention of the “Ban the Box” law is allow applicants to land an interview based in their training and experience, and give the applicant an opportunity to explain any criminal history to the potential employer rather than being eliminated from consideration from the onset of the hiring process.
Although public employers have been prohibited from asking about criminal convictions on applications for a few years, Minnesota is only the third state to make private employers subject to the same standards. The new law does not apply to the Department of Corrections or other public employers who conduct criminal background checks pursuant to state law. Employers will still be able to to ask about an applicant’s criminal history, but not until either the applicant is interviewed, or a conditional offer of employment has been extended. You can read the new law in its entirety here.
Employers who violate the law within the first year will receive a written warning after a first offense, with cash penalties for subsequent violations.
Although many corporate employers have an across-the-board policy against hiring convicted felons, this law is a step in the right direction and may give some individuals with a criminal history some relief in trying to secure employment. We will have to see how the new law plays out for those who have been considering trying to seal their criminal records through the expungement process.